Speech at the UN Climate Change Conference, Bonn, Germany

  • Hon Aupito William Sio
Pacific Peoples

Implementing Paris and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

As the facilitator said, our Government in New Zealand is only three weeks old. We’re determined to do the right thing.  We’re determined to set a course to be carbon free by the year 2050.  We’re going to establish a Climate Commission.  We’re going to work across the board with all our political parties to make sure that we achieve the goals that we set for ourselves.

Why do we want to do that?  Because we know climate change is real.  We know that in the Pacific regions there are Pacific Island nations who are fighting for their very survival. Countries like Tokelau, Tuvalu, Kiribati - they have a right to live in their ancestral home islands.  And we know that if we don’t do our part and encourage the rest of the world to do their part, that these islands will lose their homes.  Internal migration is already happening in the Pacific Region. 

We want to give support to the call for reducing Fossil Fuels.  We want to give support to the Paris agreement and we want to do our part in encouraging all other countries to also uphold the Paris Agreement. Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform supports the objectives of the Paris Agreement.  In particular making finance flows consistent with the pathway towards low greenhouse gas emissions and climate resilient development.

Every year, Government spends more than $500 billion to subsidise fossil fuels; four times the amount spent on renewable energy. The significant domestic resources saved from Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform can be effectively redirected to other objectives including supporting contributions under the Paris Agreement.

Fossil Fuel subsidies encourage wasteful consumption, disadvantaged renewable energy, and depressed investment in energy efficiency.

We have a view that fishing subsidies must be eliminated.  There’s an opportunity to address this in a manner that makes sense for countries undertaking reform in both the short and long term.  We believe it’s a win-win for all.

New Zealand and the Friends drafted the Fossils Fuels Subsidy Reform (FFSR) Communique signed in Paris in 2015, inviting others to join the reform effort.  It was supported by 43 countries and thousands of businesses – and countries continue to actively sign on, the most recent being Vietnam.

New Zealand and the Friends continue to encourage APEC and G20 economies to undertake voluntary peer review of their fossil fuel subsidies.  New Zealand was among the first countries to undertake its own review in 2015 and many other countries have followed suit – including the US, China, Peru, Vietnam, Mexico and the Philippines – increasing transparency around subsidy regimes.

We make good progress, but there is much more to do.  New Zealand would like to see more focus on FFSR in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).  We believe that trade policy can and should address global environment challenges.

We are not alone.  We welcome France’s announced leadership of a European Union initiative to support the discussion of disciplines related to fossil fuel subsidies in trade, especially at the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Committee for Trade and Environment (CTE).

In an effort to raise profile of FFSR amongst the WTO membership and encourage a dialogue on the issue in the WTO New Zealand is co-hosting a side event with Finland at the WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires on 11 December. New Zealand would welcome high-level attendance at the side event and your Government’s support for the statement.

Ladies and Gentlemen, climate change is real and it’s happening now.  We all know this.  And what we’re talking about are not things we can do in the future, but things we can do now and actions that we have the potential to carry out as leaders in the business community and leaders in the international environment.

I don’t know whether you’ve seen the canoe in the Bula Zone; a Fijian canoe.  It reminds me that if we’re to travel on this canoe or this planet, to a place where everybody succeeds, where everybody progresses, where everybody is safe, where we achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement, we all need to be on that canoe paddling in the same direction. 

So the challenge that I leave for everyone, is to join us in this work and leave a legacy that we can be proud of. Kia kaha everybody. Thank you very much.